Herbal health and beauty

I recently spent a wonderful early spring day taking part in a Natural Medicine workshop with on Waiheke Island, which is located a 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland harbour.

Qualified medical herbalist, naturopath and nutritionist Helen Elscot took us on a weed walk, where we gathered wild plants from beside the beach (big tip: pick above dog level), and used them along with essential oils, base creams and kitchen-grade ingredients to concoct our own medicines and beauty products.

I learned that calendula petals can be dried, steeped in olive oil for five-to-eight weeks, then applied to rashes and sensitive skin; and that jojoba is close to the oil our skin produces.

You can make your own aqueous base cream with beeswax, cocoa butter and almond oil, to which essential oils can be added for homemade face and body creams. I made a facial serum by mixing jojoba oil, a vitamin E capsule, and drops of jasmine and boronia essential oils, which is heaven to use on my sensitive skin, and delicious to smell.

Here are some of the shots I took of the beautiful ingredients we had to work with, our wild weed walk, and the concoction process which was a highly enjoyable way to spend a day.

Living with pigmentation

Hyperpigmentation can result in maddening discolouration and patchiness on the skin, but in the November issue of MiNDFOOD, Beauty Editor Liz Hancock tell us not to get mad when there are so many modern solutions to help you get even.

Here she shares the story of  Sarah, a 43-year-old mother, who battled the skin condition recently.

“When I turned 30 I noticed some irregular pigmentation, it came up around my eyes but I thought it was because I was living in Asia at the time and it was sun damage. It looked like pale brown uneven splotches of pigment, not freckles, more like splodges, not symmetrical.

I spent years trying all sorts of topical creams, alternative therapies, treatments. I did Chinese herbal medicine, I did absolutely everything you name it. It was trial and error but nothing worked. I spent a lot of time going to the doctors and clinics and finally I was told it was melasma, and that there was pretty much nothing I could do for it. Interestingly my sister got a pregnancy mask and that just disappeared again after birth. But when I had my daughter it didn’t do anything. It was when I went back on the pill after having her that I noticed it got really bad. I noticed once it’s there, and once you’ve got new pigmentation, you can’t get rid of it again.

One day I read in a magazine that lots of American movie stars were getting Fraxel [laser] for collagen and they were saying it helped with their pigmentation, so I decided to try it. I had two treatments, the first was full face and then a more targeted one. I have no idea what the Fraxel feels like, they put anaesthetic on your face, once that wears off it feels almost like a sunburn, but it’s manageable. I didn’t need to take painkillers but you wouldn’t want to go out of the house for a day. I noticed an improvement after the first treatment. It takes seven days to work, your face goes quite brown and then starts faintly peeling. I have to wear a zinc sunscreen because they say you shouldn’t go in the sun at all after, and I also use a special line of cell-targeting skin care, and the combination of that and the laser has kept it at bay. Now I only have a little pigmentation left, faint enough that if I put make-up on it’s not apparent.”